Hallelujah for King's Lynn
PUBLISHED: 11:26 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:47 29 November 2016
The King's Lynn Festival Chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary year with a programme of some of the greatest music ever written
For 40 years the voices of the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus have been helping some of the great choral works of the world soar through chapels, cathedrals and concert halls.
The choir was launched to sing at the 1977 King’s Lynn Festival, and is still the resident festival choir, as well as staging several separate concerts every year. It is celebrating its 40th anniversary with performances, radio recordings, an overseas tour and a festive staging of Handel’s Messiah.
From Broadway classics to Bach, and pop to requiems, the chorus has sung its way around Europe, with regular overseas tours. Magnificent venues which have been filled with the voices of this King’s Lynn choir include St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice; the Basilica of St Francis, in Assisi, Italy; the Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba, in Spain, and Rouen Cathedral. “Most poignant and moving was at the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at Ypres,” says Grace Ng, a singer with the chorus.
Next year’s overseas tour takes the chorus to the Netherlands in June, helping to celebrate Lynn’s Hanseatic League links. There have also been two CDs, including a Christmas compilation called Hark!
Concerts are often staged in St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn. The largest chapel of ease in the country is known for excellent acoustics and is ideal for the large-scale performances the 85-100 strong choir can deliver. The latest celebratory concert, on Saturday, December 17, will be in the chapel, with professional soloists and orchestra.
Soloists for the Messiah include internationally acclaimed soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, plus Peter Davoren, Martha McLorinan and David Shipley. The Meridian Orchestra will accompany the choir. Grace says: “They perform on authentic period instruments which are tuned to Baroque pitch, slightly lower than modern concert pitch. Expect a performance of Messiah from the Festival Chorus that is dramatic, rhythmically driven with vocal lines given the ‘orchestral’ treatment.”
Anniversary celebrations started early when the chorus was invited to be part of the huge Mahler concert, staged at the Norfolk Showground this year to mark the 175th anniversary of the Norwich Philharmonic Society. And at the King’s Lynn Festival in July the chorus premiered an arrangement of four folk songs, which Vaughan Williams first heard sung by fishermen in Lynn. The concert marked the 60th anniversary of the great composer conducting an orchestral concert at the festival. A recording is likely to be featured on BBC Radio Three’s Meet My Choir programme.
Musical director Tom Appleton grew up in Norfolk and leads a choir of up to 100 members who perform pop classics alongside choral masterpieces and have worked with local schoolchildren as well as with professional soloists and orchestras. The chorus has always been an auditioned choir, with singers reassessed every two years.
Grace says: “I am a trained musician but until recently had a non musical working environment, so being in the choir has kept my musical senses sharp over the years.
“We have medical consultants, auto engineers, teachers, nurses, retirees etc, all coming together, working hard with a common goal, enjoying each other’s company and performing a satisfying concert. We are bound together by the love of singing and for many the feel-good hormone kicks in after each rehearsal and we leave quite exhausted but on a high, and can’t wait for the next rehearsal!”
Concerts and contacts
The King’s Lynn Festival Chorus will sing Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, December 17, in St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn.
Tickets are £25 (£12.50 for under-18s) from King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, 01553 764864.
The first concert of 2017 is called Forte for Forty, in St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn on Saturday, April 8.
The chorus will be singing a Mozart Mass for the 2017 King’s Lynn Festival in July – just as they did for the first concert, 40 years ago.
The chorus rehearses every Monday from 7.15pm during school term times, at Springwood High School, King’s Lynn, and performs at least three concerts a year